Student Debt Suicides

There are no hard statistics about the number of suicides linked to student debt, but once the question is asked, many debt-ridden former students admit to thoughts of ending it all. And we know that the rate of suicide rises during times of unemployment and economic crisis. Take the story of 47-year-old John Koch, who has a law degree, but works as a painter and lives with his parents.
Koch originally borrowed $69,000 in 1997. The majority of that money was loans for law school, seemingly, he says, to "better myself." After he graduated from Touro Law School, Koch struggled to find steady employment and eventually he defaulted on his loans. He was immediately slapped with $50,000 in penalties. For years, he had been filling out deferment forms every six months to buy himself more time but in 2009, Sallie Mae declared him in default. At the time of this writing, Koch owes over $320,000. That sounds staggering but it's hardly unusual. Once a person defaults on a student loan, the balance grows exponentially, with interest compounding on interest, penalties and fees. By the time he "retires," in 23 years, Koch figures he will owe close to $1.9 million. He can't get even subprime credit, he tells me, and it's not like there's any way out of his trap: student loan debt cannot be absolved through bankruptcy.

Koch struggles with suicidal thoughts and admits to self-destructive behavior, such as heavy drinking and cigarettes. Eventually he channeled those feelings into a blog that draws more readers each month. In January of 2012, though, the Suffolk County police paid his parents an unpleasant visit to inquire about their son's suicidal comments and posts

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(Image credit: Flickr user CampusGrotto)

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